(Editor’s note: This article contains the name of a sexual-assault victim. Although news outlets typically do not identify sexual-assault victims, The Knightly News did for this story because the student participated in a campus forum and consented to the use of her name.)
From symbolic ribbons to a personal narrative, CPC students learned about sexual assault and consent
By Molly K. Peters
Knightly News Reporter
During the last week of April, Central Penn observed Sexual Assault Awareness Week (SAAW) on campus with interactive events and presentations for students, faculty and staff.
Activities paired with sexual-assault learning included:
- A self-defense class on Tuesday
- Denim Day on Wednesday
- A French fry bar on Thursday
Deep Sharing, and Perspective
Also on Thursday, a screening of the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which details widespread underreported sexual assault on college campuses and the schools’ frequent reluctance to address the issue, was presented in the Capital BlueCross Theatre.
Prior to the movie, Central Penn student Kayla Murren shared her story and experiences with sexual assault.
“You can learn about it (sexual assault) and you can read different things and try to prevent it as much as you can, but hearing it from an actual person that lived through it and experienced it helps you fully understand,” Murren told The Knightly News. “It’s hard to imagine it unless you hear it right from them.”
She added: “If (Central Penn) did little reminders in terms of sexual assault or even just mental illness in general, it would keep people thinking instead of forgetting about it when the week is over.”
Through the week, students learned the warning signs of sexual assault.
They learned, for instance, that sexual assault comes in many different forms. Sometimes, experts said, people don’t realize they are victims of sexual assault.
The meaning of consent was a major focus through the week.
One hundred ribbons were displayed along the bridge, showcasing the Central Penn community, with red ribbons representing the number of people in the student body who will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime.
Another display was a clothesline on which T-shirts hung in the quad and that showcased important messages for students who have been victims of sexual assault.
The “What Were They Wearing?” exhibit in the theater showcased examples of what students from universities and colleges in the United States were wearing at the time of their assault in an attempt to dispel the idea that certain clothing or outfits invite sexual assault. Quotes from survivors accompanied the clothing displayed.
Did activities, presentations raise awareness?
When students were asked whether they felt the week helped them become more aware of the reality of sexual assault on college campuses, the overall answer was yes.
“I feel like the school did a really good job at showing us the reality of sexual assault,” Lyllith Lockett, who said she attended a few of the campus events. “I think that it’s important that the school makes it well known, not just this week, but every week, that there are resources on campus for students who are victims of sexual assault.”
Lockett said she found the “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit particularly informative.
“I feel like seeing the ‘What Were You Wearing?’ exhibit really hit me and made it a reality that it can happen to anyone. I feel like it is very important to teach kids from a young age that clothes do not show what a person does or does not want, and the school did a great job of showcasing that.”
Students: Good, but more time needed
Many students said they wish there was more than just a week talking about sexual assault.
Most people interviewed said the school’s awareness-raising efforts were spot on, but students must want to learn and be educated about sexual assault.
The fry bar was most popular activity during the week. It grabbed the most attention because free stuff is a selling point for college students. Students at the fry bar were taught about the meaning of consent — that no means no.
“I think that my presentation on my experiences was kind of the biggest takeaway because it added a different perspective,” Murren said of the week’s events. “I feel like usually when you think of sexual assault, you only see one picture, when in reality, it can be very broad. I feel like the speech that I gave kind of opened up people’s eyes.”
Support is available
Megan Peterson, dean of equity and multicultural affairs, and interim dean of student success, stressed that support is available for victims of sexual assault and for people who believe they may have been sexually assaulted.
“If a student just needs someone to talk to, I would encourage them to seek counseling services,” Peterson said. “They are a completely confidential resource so anything that a student talks about in the counseling center does not need to be reported to my office. Students can also just come to my office and talk if they need to talk through things.”
Central Penn students receive free counseling, covered by their tuition. Contact the campus counseling center at CPCcounselor@centralpenn.edu.
Peterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a comment or story idea? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.
Edited by Knightly News Media Club editor Michael Lear-Olimpi.